Review of the Cingular 3125 Smartphone

Reviews

The Cingular 3125 is the latest Windows Mobile smartphone to be released in the United States. The 3125 is a variation of the HTC Star Trek device, which has been available worldwide under names like the Qtek 8500 and I-Mate Smartflip. The Cingular version of the Star Trek however sports a higher capacity battery and more internal memory than its fellow Star Trek models.

When you first see the Cingular 3125 the distinguishing feature of this handset quickly becomes clear, it’s all about the form factor. One of only 2 ‘flip’ style Windows Mobile handsets, and the only one with Windows Mobile 5, the Cingular 3125 sports a slim design reminiscent of the Motorola Razr. QUICK GLANCE:

* Cingular 3125
* Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone Edition
* Clamshell form factor
* 128 MB Rom/ 64 MB Ram
* Bluetooth 1.2
* Quad-band (850/900/1800/1900) GSM/Edge
* 1.3 Megapixel Camera
* Micro-SD Expansion Slot
* 3.87 by 2.02 by 0.64 inches; 3.82 ounces

IN THE BOX

Cingular includes a nice array of accessories with the 3125. Inside the box you will find a power adapter, sync cable, stereo headset, splitter cable, battery, quick start guide, and CD with Activesync 4.2 and Outlook 2002.

ACCESSORIES

The accessories themselves are pretty standard fare, distinguished only by the fact that they are adapted to work with the 3125’s peculiar ‘slim’ usb port. This is the only port on the phone, and is used for charging, usb syncing and the headset. This is the reason a ‘splitter’ cable is included so you can plug more than one accessory into the phone at once.

The headset deserves notice because it is different than the one included with the Cingular 2125 (HTC Faraday). The functions are exactly the same, but the 3125 headset has a longer wire and nicer ear buds that fit more snugly than the 2125 headset where the ear buds would constantly fall out.

The volume/answer controls are now located on a boxy plastic casing that looks extremely cheap. Although I appreciated the improved fit of the ear buds, I did not like the look of the headset at all, which is a problem because the proprietary port means that you can’t replace them with any other wired headset.

The only other item of note amongst the accessories is the battery, which sports a capacity of 1150 mAh instead of the 750 mAh battery included in other versions of the Star Trek.

ON THE OUTSIDE: CLOSED

The 3125 is styled in black (other versions of the Star Trek are available in different colors) and in my opinion looks very stylish. When closed it fits very easily in the hand. The front and back of the device are ridged on the top 3/4 and sports soft touch paint in the bottom 1/4. The device is very comfortable to hold, I am usually a klutz and drop my 2125 all the time, but I only dropped the 3125 once during my testing period.

On the front of the device you will see the lens for the 1.3 megapixel camera on top. Below it is a large circular window that houses a square 128 x 128 display. This display is extremely brilliant and easy to read. Below the display are three keys marked with music controls for play/pause and skipping between tracks. These buttons are silver, easy to find by touch and provide good tactile feedback. Finally, on the bottom of the front face you will find the Cingular logo, with the speaker on the right and two LED’s, one of which indicates power status, the other bluetooth.

On the left side of the device you will find a rocker switch to control volume in either open or closed position, and above that a single button that on the 3125 is assigned to the voice tag function when open, and nothing while closed. You will also see on the hinge a small bar through which you can loop a lanyard.

On the right side of the device you will see a single button that activates the camera in either open or closed positions. Near the bottom on the right you will find the ‘slim’ usb port.

There is nothing on the top or bottom of the device. If you turn it over you will find the cover for the batter, which sports a ‘hump’ that other Star Trek models don’t have. This allows the phone to house the larger capacity battery. Below the battery cover on the right you will find a rubber cover for the external antenna port. Beneath the battery cover you will find the sim card slot, and below it a slot for Micro SD cards.

ON THE OUTSIDE: OPEN

Once you open the device the true size of the phone hits you. In terms of length, this thing is big, really big. Larger than the Razr, and much larger than a normal flip phone, you can see by the picture below that it dwarfs my 2125.

On the top side of the flip you will find a brilliant 320 x 240 2.2′ display. Because of the large size of the phone the display appears to be smaller than the 2125, but in actuality is the same size. The screen provides excellent color and displays video and pictures very well. Above the display you will find a call speaker, flanked by a pair of rubber feet that hold the display away from the keyboard when closed. Below the display is the Cingular branding.

On the bottom part of the flip you will find the controls and keypad. These are very similar to those found on the Razr, and are all embossed onto a single metallic piece. The top part consists of the traditional Windows Mobile Smartphone Edition controls, with a D-Pad, call and hang up keys, 2 soft keys, a home and a back key. The hang up key also turns the device on and off with a long press.

Below these controls is a large keypad. Tactile feedback is pretty good on every part of the controls. You can easily distinguish between buttons because of the raised ridges that separate them. When you press the keys they give a little and you hear a soft click, this works very well, and when using the larger buttons I was extremely accurate in my use of the keypad. The only exception was the D-Pad where mistakes were all too common.

On the very bottom you will find the microphone and a sensor that turns on the backlight for the keypad. The backlight is blue-green and illuminates all of the numbers, buttons, and dividers on the keypad.

While open the true thinness of the phone becomes clear, as you can see by my comparison shot between the 3125 and the 2125.

ERGONOMICS

Using the 3125 was a fairly good experience, with just a couple of items that bothered me. In closed mode the controls were all in easy reach and easily distinguishable. The front facing display is easy to read, except in direct sunlight. When you open the phone the display is again very large and easy to read, although again there is some trouble when it is in direct sunlight.

The keypad was very easy to use with a couple of disclaimers. First, I had a lot of trouble with the D-Pad, I felt that it was too small and the fact that all of the numbers/controls are flat against the surface made it very easy for me to hit enter instead of the direction I wanted to select. Second, the keypad is very large, and especially for someone with small hands like me I found it a stretch to go from the soft keys to the zero.

When in open mode the keys on the side of the device are all on the top part of the flip. This makes them a little difficult to access, again especially for people with small hands. Finally, the placement of the ‘slim’ USB port on the side of the device was very annoying. Especially when I used the included headset, it would protrude and make it almost impossible to use my right hand to control the device.

On other slight ergonomic problem is the placement of the memory card beneath not only the battery cover, but also the SIM card. This means of course that in order to access the memory card you will need to power down the device (this happens automatically if you open up the battery cover) and then remove your sim card. Not very convenient.

Despite these problems, as I got used to the device it became easier and easier to use. And especially as I spent a lot of time in the closed mode listening to music I found the ergonomic experience to be excellent.

PERFORMANCE

A Texas Instruments OMAP 850 200mhz processor powers the Cingular 3125, which is very common on devices from HTC. It also powers the Tornado/Faraday line, as well as the HTC Wizard and even some of their newer devices. I have used the Cingular 2125, also powered by this processor, for several months now and have found it to be a fairly responsive device. The 3125 is even more responsive, and I rarely experienced lag.

The 3125 also sports 64 MB of Ram, which provides plenty of processing memory for multi-tasking. I would often be listening to music while surfing the Internet and had my calendar, email and spreadsheet program all running in the background and never ran into problems. The 3125 differs from other versions of the Star Trek in that it also has 128 MB of Rom. This is great as I was able to install all of my programs directly to the phone, while leaving plenty of room for temporary Internet files and anything else I needed.

Battery life on the 3125 was about equal to that on my 2125, which means that as a power user I can usually get about a day and a half before it dies on me. When I was using a stereo bluetooth headset on a daily basis I would end the day with about 20% battery left. With the built in headset I would have about 40% battery left. A normal day for me consists of about 15 minutes of calls, 2 hours of Internet surfing, 2 hours of music/video playback, and 2 hours of additional use. Normal user should be able to get 2-3 days out of a single charge.

CONNECTIVITY

The 3125 is a fairly standard Windows Mobile Smartphone device in terms of connectivity. It sports quad-band GSM support, so it will work anywhere in the world you take it. It also supports Edge for download speeds of up to 230 kbps, but does not support 3g. I found Edge support in the Seattle area to be excellent, and I was able to get zippy transfer speeds almost anywhere I went.

Reception on the 3125 was ever so slightly worse than the 2125, which is really not a problem since I consider the 2125’s reception to be exceptional. My normal reception challenge for any phone is taking it out to my Mother-in-law’s house, about 75 miles outside of Seattle just off a small state highway. With my 2125 I would usually get 1-2 bars of reception, with access to Edge networks. With my 3125 I would get 0-1 bars with access to Edge as well.

There is no Wi-Fi, not surprising considering the slim form factor, but you will find bluetooth on board. Bluetooth supports all of the basic functions that we are used to by now, with a nice extra that is now becoming standard on HTC phones, A2DP and AVRCP profiles that support stereo bluetooth headsets. I used the 3125 with the Sony HBH-DS970 headset and found the sound quality very good, controls on the headset did what they were supposed to, and call quality was excellent.

I was also able to sync wirelessly to my Macbook using The Missing Sync via bluetooth, and in tests with Windows computers bluetooth syncing worked fine as well. USB connectivity was also well supported, although I did not use it very often at all.

CAMERA

The 1.3 megapixel camera on the 3125 did not impress me much at all. It is certainly a step up from the VGA cameras you will find on many smartphones, but it will not replace even a cheap stand-alone digital camera. Below are some examples for your perusal.

The camera interface has been improved from previous models, and provides a few extra controls. I also appreciate the fact that the latest updates to Windows Mobile 5 automatically ask you where you want your pictures/video saved when it detects a memory card.

One interesting item about the 3125 is that the camera works in both open and closed mode. While closed the camera uses the exterior display as a viewfinder. This is useful for taking self-portraits for contacts, but because the size of the photo is automatically set to small it is not very useful for anything else.

MUSIC PLAYER

As can be discerned from the exterior music controls, the 3125 is definitely looking to replace your regular music player. With a 2gb micro SD card on board, you can carry around as much as 2000 hours of music in mp3 format. If you are using a Windows computer you can sync your music and other media with Windows Media Player. As I was using a Mac, I removed my memory card to use a card reader, a slight hassle considering where it is placed (see above).

The exterior music controls are set to control the on board Windows Media Player Mobile. I usually prefer to use TCPMP, which supports more formats. To my surprise though I found that Windows Media Player Mobile on the 3125 provided full support for my iTunes encoded mp4 files, something I have had trouble with on my 2125, so this was not much of a problem.

I am not a snob when it comes to sound quality, I encode my music at 64 kbps using the aac format, but I found sound quality on the 3125 to be very good. I used the 3125 with both the included headset, and other than the f
ct that I think they look cheap, worked fine. Music played over a stereo bluetooth headset was also good, although range was fairly short at about 5 feet.

One of the problems I’ve faced on phones in the past is listening to music while multi-tasking. Specifically getting skips when transferring data over Edge, which is something I do often. I’m happy to say that on the 3125 skips were rare, and multi-tasking while listening to music was very easy, except for the annoying placement of the headset.

AS A PHONE

Call quality on the 3125 was no worse of better than my 2125, which is fine with me as I was very satisfied with that call quality. As I mentioned above, reception was very good, just short of missing the outstanding standard set by the 2125. Making calls was easy, and the included voice tag program worked well, although you will have to train all of your voice tags yourself.

One nice item is that the external display provides a lot of good information. Below are sample of what it looks like when you’re receiving a call or if you missed one.

ALL THE REST

In addition to being a music player and phone, the 3125 is of course a powerful multi-tasking smartphone. I use my smart phone to check email via an IMAP server, view and edit spreadsheets, watch videos, surf the web, and half a dozen other tasks. My experience was fairly good. The only issue I ran into had to do with the form factor of the phone. Being a flip, it is not nearly as convenient to watch a TV show in full screen, as you have to hold the whole length of the phone, which is substantial.

Surfing the Internet with Internet Explorer Mobile is as good as it has ever been. Messaging was helped by the larger keypad, which I used with 2 hands most of the time. It’s certainly more comfortable than the tiny keypad found on the 2125, although still not as good as a QWERTY keyboard. I had no problem syncing with my IMAP server, I also used the built-in MSN Mobile to check my hotmail account.

CONCLUSION

Overall I am very impressed with the Cingular 3125. Despite some minor flaws, it is a well thought out device. I have no problem recommending the phone to anyone who is searching for a Windows Mobile Smartphone Edition device.

CUSTOMIZATION

As a power user I customize my devices to a large extent. Please read my review on the Cingular 2125 for a guide on how to customize a Windows Mobile Smartphone Edition device.

Written by Alfredo

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